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Emotional Night in Sacramento as Kings Season Ends

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Sacramento's 26 years as an NBA city likely came to an end Wednesday night. The Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, is on the verge of moving the team to Anaheim.  That made the nail biting, season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Lakers an emotional evening, as a loud-but-melancholy sellout crowd rocked the building formerly known as Arco Arena one last time.
The final buzzer of what's likely the final game in Sacramento's NBA history sounded about 10 minutes ago, yet thousands of fans are still here - standing, sitting, hugging, holding signs and chanting.
"Here we stay," they chanted, and "Sac-ra-men-to."
Rich Bachman simply couldn't leave.  The season ticket holder from Year One shared some tears and a hug with his wife Sandy.
Bachmann: "Here we're staying, yep, kinda savoring the moment right now.  I guess we'll come back for the rodeo or the truck pull or something like that, but no more Kings."
Rose Miller and her husband have also been season ticket holders from the start.  They got to their seats at the building formerly known as Arco Arena well before the game began.
Miller: "I walked around the arena when I first got here, and I had to fight from crying, because it might be the last time for us.  And it makes me very sad."
All souvenirs were 50 percent off.  The team said it was for "Fan Appreciation Night."  Cynics said it looked like a "clear the inventory" sale.  Bobby Boarder stopped by and stocked up.
Boarder: "We got some Christmas ornaments, some knick-knacks and things that we can use in the future, since, well, the Kings may not be here next year.  We're hoping and praying they will be, but it's not looking good."
Headed for Anaheim?
The Maloof family, which owns the Kings, has until Monday to submit a formal request to the NBA to move to Anaheim.  When that happens, a majority of NBA owners must approve the request.  It's unclear when that vote would take place, but on Thursday, the Maloofs will address the NBA Board of Governors in New York City.  Sacramento Mayor and former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson will also address the owners Thursday - but says he's not trying to block the Kings from moving.
Johnson: "I want the NBA to know that even though we've had failed attempts in the past, I think it's a new era in Sacramento.  And whether the Kings are there or not, our commitment is to go forward and build a new facility in the next four years."
But if the Kings do leave Sacramento, luring another NBA team won't be easy, says sports economist Dan Rascher.  He runs a Bay Area-based consulting firm and helped the Maloofs study an early bid for a new arena about a decade ago.  Rascher says the city may end up paying more to attract a new NBA team than they would just to keep the Kings from leaving in the first place.
Rascher: "If you think about a team saying, the NBA says, OK, let's go back to Sacramento at some point - well, guess who has all the leverage at that point?  The NBA does and its expansion franchise. They can negotiate until they get the deal they want before they agree to come to Sacramento.  As it stands now, the Kings are already there so they have less leverage."
Rascher says the Maloofs don't want to leave Sacramento, but…
Rascher: "I think they feel like they've tried everything, every different way to build an arena, and it hasn't happened. And I think that's why they're heading out."
A Game that Mirrored History
Green: "On behalf of my teammates, coaching staff and Sacramento organization, we wanna thank the greatest fans in the NBA!"
The Kings' Donte Green addressed the crowd just before tipoff.  The game itself started ugly.  The Lakers' lead reached 20 points.  But then the game turned into an absolute thriller as the Kings came all the way back.
The building was rocking, as it did in the Kings' strongest years.  Back then, the Kings and Lakers had an epic rivalry, culminating in the 2002 playoffs when Sacramento fell just short.  So it was on this night.  The Kings had a three point lead with less than 10 seconds to go.  But the Lakers tied it, then dominated overtime.
So what might be the final NBA game in Sacramento turned out to be a metaphor for the team's 26 years in town: a slow start, some thrilling moments, but in the end: heartbreak.
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